We’re all familiar with the winter solstice, which is, put simply, an astronomical phenomenon that marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. But, how many of us realize that it’s a biannual event, occurring on December 21st in the northern hemisphere and on June 20th in the southern hemisphere? Or that it carries a huge amount of significance for different kinds of religious and secular communities? Turns out that a lot of meaning is attributed to the winter solstice and the reasons for it are pretty interesting.
Now, before we delved deep into the subject, you may be wondering how the winter solstice occurs twice a year? Well, it has a lot to do with the earth’s axis. You see, the two hemispheres are faced in the opposite directions, so when the Earth orbits around the Sun, the hemisphere that’s faced away from the sun experiences winter, while the hemisphere that’s faced toward the sun gets to experience summer. In a half a year, the positions of the two hemispheres in relation to the sun will reverse and so will the seasons. Hence, each hemisphere gets one winter solstice per year.
People have assigned special meaning to the winter solstice for thousands of years. As a matter of fact, we know that the natural phenomenon greatly influenced people’s beliefs and actives as far back as the Neolithic period, which was roughly 10,000BC. That’s because astronomical events were used to guide certain activities, such as the sowing of the crops, creating food reserves, and even mating the animals to have them give birth to a new generation in the spring. As such, certain traditions and mythologies were born in celebration of the period.
Generally, the winter solstice is associated with different gatherings, festivals, rituals, celebrations, and a permeating sense of rebirth. This makes a lot of sense considering the fact that the winter solstice is associated with the birth of several individuals considered to be divine across the world. For example, Christianity’s Jesus, Egypt’s’ Horus, and Persia’s Mithras were all born around the time of the winter solstice. In other words, the darkest time of the year seems to coincide with the birth of saviors who mostly aim to enlighten us.
According to Belsebuub.com:
“Each of these deities was known as a savior of mankind, and a beloved and sacred divine child. Each of these deities was associated with the sun, and all of them (were) born at the time of the winter solstice in a miraculous virgin birth…The creative process which gives birth to the universe also gives birth to the spiritual within a human. Thus the divine savior is not just born in the world, (he or she) can be born with us…”
Because of this, winter tends to be a period characterized by a lot of introspection, self-reflection, and self-improvement. So, when the end of the year is near, we tend to shed a lot of the accumulated negativity from the previous months to enter the new year with a renewed sense of self, purpose, and determination. And for many, relying on ritualistic and spiritual practices is just one of the ways they are able to attain that personal sense of renewal. While the winter solstice may not be as popular as Hanukah or Kwanza, it remains a deeply meaningful catalyst of change.
Here is how AWomansHealth.com put it:
“There is no right or wrong way to celebrate winter solstice. Symbolically, the solstice is a time of turning inward, into the darkness, into the depths of the unknown. It’s a time of tuning into a deep sense of intuition—trusting your inner voice. In a sense, it is a time of feeling your way in the dark when you cannot see where you are going. Many people like to use the solstice as a time of deep meditation—to reflect on what has been and what will be.”
At Merkaela, we know a thing or two about turning inward, meditating and creating rituals aimed at facilitating personal growth. It’s actually one of the most important aspects of what we do. For instance, the Winter Solstice subscription box was intentionally created to help our community take the time, space, and focus required to get into a clear state of mind. That’s why we included carefully crafted affirmations, specially selected music, and mindfully chosen essential oils that will not only rejuvenate your senses but will also soothe your mind and body.
This December, we suggest creating a winter solstice ritual so as to usher in new beginnings for you and your family. When the sun begins to set, try turning off all of your electronic devices and light a Merkaela candle. Make a list of everything you’re grateful for and meditate on it for a while trying to appreciate the ups and the downs you’ve faced this year. Make another list of everything you’d love to let go off and burn the list using the candle. Now that you’ve cleared your slate, take some time to determine and set your intentions for the year to come.
Keep in mind that winter solstice rituals don’t have to be serious or deeply emotional events. They are simply there to help you get what’s on your mind out into the open so that you can let it go and move on with your life. Much like the winter solstice is about rebirth and new beginnings, it’s your chance to create small changes within yourself that will eventually yield great rewards.